Baux de Provence – a profoundly hypnotic hilltop provençal village
It’s 7 am when I open my eyes. The sunlight filters through the shutters and cast ethereal dancing shadows in the room. Today we plan on exploring the hilltop provençal village of Les Baux de Provence. My first encounter with this side of Provence, les Alpilles, was when I was still a little girl. Back then we lived in Marseille. This was one of the outings we did on this side of Provence. So here we are, heading to a valley I have really vague memories but for the sound of crickets filling the air, in addition to the glaring sunshine.
We are following in the footsteps of many before us. The Roman for instance got it. The whole area is incredibly fertile and is hailed for the fertility of its soil. As a consequence there are lots of Roman ruins around this area. A stone thrown away from les Baux de Provence seats le Pont du Gard. It is the highest Roman aqueduct in the world. Much later, the region becomes a bed of creation for artists such as Picasso or Van Gogh. They would spend a rather large chunk of their lives here.
A hilltop provençal village known as the kingdom of stone
During our drive we encounter multiple vineyards and olive fields laid out with military precision. The view as we approach the village is that of an optical illusion. The first thing that crosses my mind is ‘this is a mirage’. A feeling echoed by my travelling mates. Picture a scaled down mountain with a cherry on top. The cherry on top is Les Baux de Provence. Further in, we park our car. Excited as little kids, we head towards the village.
An eagle nest. The otherworldly village of Les Baux de Provence seats proudly on a rock formation. Small and woven to the hill it towers 245m above. It is located 25km from Avignon and a stone thrown from Saint-Remy de Provence and Arles. Walking into the village feels like walking into an open air museum. Terraced and walled in parts it is all very idillic. Every house perfectly maintained. Flower pots manicured. The maze of lanes and cul-de-sacs look like a subject an impressionist would sketch. Everything seems to concur for you to just stand and gawk.
On one side the village. It is a bundle of cuteness. Long and narrow with medieval houses lining the main Street. On either side twisting lanes branch out towards the castle or the area below the village. On the other side, the chateau – and the remnants of the fortress – stand on the rocky ridge in the southern part of the village. It’s the pinnacle of the village.
Finally between the chateau and the village seats a flat and stony place. It is here that magic happens. Beautiful Alpilles bones. The plain juts jaggedly into Alpille country and beyond. Starkly beautiful views. The Camargues; Marseille; Arles; The Sainte-Victoire mountain or Aix-en-Provence can be seen on a clear day.
At times though it feels like the entire valley has flocked into the village. It’s easy to understand the intense attraction. Les Baux de Provence is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. And this does sell. Consequentially many souvenirs shops line part of the main street. I can only imagine the 500 real inhabitants of the village may at peak season feel like they have been swamped by huge human waves.
The village seems to be wrapped in some incredible light. Permanently. Coming here i was expecting beauty and scenic. I found it. In addition, Everything from the cobblestone lanes; The perfectly manicured lavender shrubs; The museums; The medieval castle and the starkly beautiful views couldn’t be more picturesque. I just wish there were less people. Don’t we all.
You can read the other leg of our Provence exploration here.
xoxo M. Let’s share our travel inspiration